REMEMBER the injustice you felt at school when the teacher would tick off the whole class for the actions of just one pupil?
That pretty much sums up how myself and many of my journalistic colleagues are feeling after Prince Harry’s coruscating takedown of the “British tabloids”.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are misguidedly living their lives as celebrities rather than royals[/caption]
The very newspapers, I might add, catering for a readership that traditionally loves and wholeheartedly supports the monarchy.
To echo the sentiment of Julia Roberts when she was snubbed by the snotty shop assistants in Pretty Woman: “Huuuuuge mistake.”
The main target is The Mail on Sunday for publishing parts of a letter Meghan wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.
He later released sections of it as defence against an orchestrated attack on him by Meghan’s friends in the US-based People magazine, meaning it’s a simple copyright issue between father, daughter and that specific newspaper.
But the Prince and Princess of Perceived Slights couldn’t just leave it at that.
So the rest of us have been lumped in to a bizarrely timed, all-encompassing “tabloid” condemnation sent via showbiz lawyers Schillings, a firm synonymous with helping the famous try to keep their alleged misdemeanours out of the papers.
A telling sign, perhaps, that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are misguidedly living their lives through the prism of celebrity, rather than royal behaviour.
As an actress in US drama Suits, Meghan was no doubt used to giving promotional, prearranged and heavily managed interviews to a media that had little interest in her the rest of the year.
But when you marry into the British Royal Family, it’s on the clear understanding that you are also taking on centuries of tradition.
One of which is persistent public interest and the “never complain, never explain” mantra that means keeping your political opinions to yourself so you represent all the people, rather than just some.
An ethos ably and effectively demonstrated by the inscrutable Queen, who is rarely, if ever, criticised.
But when, like Harry, you choose to dish out opinion, you must also accept that it will inevitably be questioned by those who disagree — both in the media and online.
This often justified criticism must never be confused with the hideous trolling that should either be ignored or, in extreme cases, prosecuted.
It’s such a shame because, until now, the success of their tour of South Africa suggested that Harry and Meghan had finally turned a corner in their tricky relationship with the media.
They smiled, they joked, they finally showed all of Archie to the world and, consequently, the coverage for both of them and the causes they were highlighting was positive.
But many of the royal reporters who penned that positive spin are now feeling bruised by the couple’s accusation of “double standards”.
Yet again, Harry’s get-out-of-jail card in defending his wife has been to evoke the memory of his mother Diana, saying they are: “Commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person.”
In the case of the online conspiracists and trolls, he has a point. But in the case of the traditional media, he mustn’t wield the loss of his mother as a weapon to try to shut down valid criticism that questions why, for example, he preaches about climate change one day then climbs aboard a private jet the next.
Princess Diana was media savvy and close friends with several influential journalists.
In his recent memoir, former Vogue publisher Nicholas Coleridge relayed the story of a lunch they shared that he had gone to great lengths to keep secret.
But as she left, he says four photographers, “sprang forward, taking a thousand snaps”.
Another example of “Diana, the hunted” perhaps?
Later, Coleridge rang a newspaper friend to ask how the picture desk had known and got the reply: “Diana rang herself from her car, on her way to lunch. She often tips them off about where she’ll be.”
Equally, on the night of her death, she was safely ensconced in the Paris Ritz but chose, at midnight, to leave in a car being driven by a man three times over the French drink-driving limit.
CUSHION OF WEALTH
That is not to say the media — and, in particular, the paparazzi — didn’t sometimes step out of line, but unlike her youngest son, Diana knew not to judge all by the actions of a few.
Presumably, the Sussexes hope The Mail on Sunday will cave in before it gets to court, but the paper is insisting it will defend the action “vigorously”.
If so, Thomas Markle will be the star witness, and potentially Meghan herself — an event that will draw far more publicity to the Duchess’s turbulent family background than any article we have all long forgotten about.
During the South Africa tour, Harry told 18-year-old student Peter Oki he was so overwhelmed by the world’s problems that it was sometimes hard to get out of bed in the mornings.
Perhaps he should try embarking on a tour of the UK, where millions of his subjects are coping with issues without the cushion of wealth and privilege he enjoys.
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Hard-working people who, after the daily grind of keeping their head above water, simply don’t have time to obsess over perceived slights.
Of course, there is one sure-fire route to greater privacy if Harry and Meghan desire it.
Give up the royal title (and all the perks that go with it), get a full-time job and pay for your own house renovations, like the rest of us.
Harry mustn’t wield the loss of his mother as a weapon to try to shut down valid criticism[/caption]
Unlike Harry, Diana knew not to judge everyone by the actions of the few[/caption]